iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






MSI P43 Neo-F Motherboard

An affordable mid-end product on a new chipset.

September 10, 2008

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With jumpers and buttons Clear CMOS jumper  
Overclocking jumpers  
AMI BIOS 2.61 Allows to disable specific CPU functions + Hyper-Threading, Execute Disable Bit, EIST
Memory timings + By SPD, CAS Latency Time, DRAM RAS to CAS Delay, DRAM RAS Precharge, Precharge Delay, TWR, TWTR, TRRD, TRTP, TRFC, 1N/2N Memory Timing
Memory frequency selection + Auto or a multiplier to the FSB frequency: x1.00, x1.20, x1.25, x1.33, x1.50, x1.60, x1.67, x2.00
Peripheral bus frequency control + PCI = Default, 37.3, 42 MHz
PCI IRQ manual assignment -  
FSB frequency setup + from the nominal value to 800 MHz at 1 MHz steps, there is an option of dynamic CPU overclocking
CPU multiplier + only integer values
CPU core voltage control + Auto, from -0.4000 to +0.7875 V at 0.0125 V steps
Memory voltage control + Auto, 1.416-3.324 V at 0.012 V steps
Chipset voltage control + Northbridge: Auto, 0.740-2.624 V at 0.012 V steps
Southbridge: Auto, 1.5-1.8 V at 0.1 V steps
FSB voltage control + Auto, 0.90-2.47 V at 0.01 V steps

We used BIOS 1.3 dated 27.06.08, the latest available BIOS version at the time of our tests. The mentioned BIOS parameters are available in this version, but the viability of non-standard settings hasn't been tested.

The motherboard allows to call up a menu to select a boot device with a certain button during the POST procedure, a convenient way for a once-only boot-up, for example from a CD drive, without making changes in BIOS Setup. In case of a failed overclocking attempt the motherboard automatically starts up with default settings without modifying settings in BIOS Setup, which is very convenient for adjustments.

Even though this is the cheapest model in the new series of motherboards, its BIOS Setup still offers a number of unique features for system overclocking. For example, you can adjust the on-board clock generator (CPU Clock Drive and PCI-E Clock Drive = 700, 800*, 900, 1000 mV; CPU Clock Skew and MCH Clock Skew = Normal, 100-1500 ps), which practically does not happen in BIOS Setup.

Two jumpers are used to choose the base frequency of the CPU bus at startup (then, you can raise this frequency in BIOS Setup). We leave it up to overclockers to decide whether this implementation is justified. Another useful feature is Multi-Step OC Booster, which allows to overclock the system not at startup, but in the process of loading an operating system. So a bad overclocking attempt will require only one reboot and BIOS Setup adjustment instead of relying on the motherboard to register overclocking (by several repeating reboots) and to load safe defaults.

Interestingly, the motherboard offers to adjust frequency of PCI bus, but not PCI Express: it seems that the necessity to overclock PCIEx16 (PCI-E 2.0) is doubtful even for manufacturers of motherboards for overclockers.

And finally, MSI Memory-Z allows to read SPD of the installed memory modules right in BIOS Setup, which may be extremely useful, especially if you work with unknown modules. Unfortunately, the current implementation of this feature is apparently far from perfection: the program displays data of only one profile (probably corresponding to the minimal cycle time with the maximum CAS# latency -- that is the fastest profile), even though SPD may contain several of them. Besides, the program supports EPP and XMP data, but in our case (Corsair CM2X1024-9136C5D) some parameters were displayed as rubbish. We hope that Memory-Z will be improved in the next BIOS versions.


Testbed configuration

  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.4 GHz, 1066 MHz bus)
  • Memory: 2 x 1 GB Corsair CM2X1024-9136C5D (tested in DDR2-800 mode with 4-4-4 timings)
  • Graphics card: PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 3870, 512 MB
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 (SATA, 7200 rpm)
  • Power supply unit: HiPro W460GC31
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

We compared MSI P43 Neo-F with several representatives of Intel's latest chipsets.

Test MSI P43 Neo-F (P43) ECS P45T-A (P45) Biostar TP35D2-A7 SE (P35) MSI X48C Platinum (X48)
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 4:17 4:17 4:16 4:19
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 3:36 3:37 3:37 3:37
FarCry (Low@640x480), fps 347 346 346 343
FarCry (Highest@1600x1200), fps 178 181 179 181
Doom 3 (Low@640x480), fps 208 207 205 203
Doom 3 (Highest@1600x1200), fps 179 179 178 179

As you can easily see, these boards are nearly identical (as it always happens in tests conducted with this configuration according to our test method).


In our opinion, MSI P43 Neo-F is a very good product. It offers a good modern level of convenience and functionality. We can only grumble a little about the lack of FireWire and eSATA, but the widely expandable full ATX form factor makes up for this. In return, the good chipset choice provides support for all the latest processors from Intel, PCI-E 2.0 graphics cards (if you require version 2.0 performance), and cheap DDR2 memory. Besides, the motherboard itself is expected to cost less than $100. Good voltage regulators in the critical circuits, sufficient chipset cooling (without overclocking), and advanced system overclocking options may also attract many users. As a result, it's a successful motherboard with good market prospects.

The motherboard provided by the manufacturer.
ATI Radeon HD 3870 provided by PowerColor.

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